Monday, October 20, 2008

Finding your "Happy Weight"

By Courtney Westlake

Sure, sometimes we think it would be nice to be able to fit into our high school jeans, but to actually strive for this body again isn't always realistic.

"It's very important to have a realistic goal when it comes to weight loss," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "Some people have a tendency to wish they were that size four or size zero again like they were back when they were in their 20s when they are 50. But that might not necessarily be ideal for their body."

Jillson encouraged people to focus on maintaining a positive body image whatever your fitness goals may be.

"Stay positive even if you're having difficulty losing weight, maintaining weight or putting weight on - everyone is different with their health and fitness goals," she said. "Make sure stay positive with what you're trying to reach. Don't focus on the scale necessarily. A lot of people focus on a certain number and want to get below that certain number."

What you should focus on instead, Jillson said, is your body composition, which means your lean body mass - muscles, bones, organs - compared to your adipose tissue, which is your fat mass.

"An easy way to do that is through a body composition test, which we do here at the TRAC," she said. "It's a great tool to determine your baseline fitness, to see if you need to lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight, increase your muscle tone or decrease your fat mass."

Jillson used the phrase "happy weight," which was discussed in SHAPE magazine in February, when talking about your ideal body weight.

"It might not be the weight you think you desire for yourself, that size 4 or 100 pounds, but it's your happy weight, the weight that you are happy at in this point in your life," she said. "It might not be number you would like but might be more realistic for your body."

To find your "happy" weight:

Multiply your height in inches by itself and then by 0.031. This is your weight at a body mass index of 22, in the middle of the healthy range, so it's a good place to start. However there are many different factors that contribute to your happy weight, so we can't stop there.

-Multiply your last number by 0.95 if you have a small frame; leave it alone if you have a medium frame and multiply it by 1.05 if you have a large frame.
-Add one pound if a sibling or parent is obese, which makes you two or three times more likely to be overweight.
-Add 2 pounds for each decade you are over 20.
-Add five pounds if you've had any children.
-Subtract one pound if you exercise and weight train once a week, 2 pounds if you do it three times a week and 3 pounds for five or more times a week.
"Muscle tone plays a major factor in your happy weight and body image," Jillson added. "The more muscle you have, the heavier you are going to be."
-Add four pounds if you smoked at least a pack a day for a year or more and have quit. (Most quitters gain weight, but the health benefits are well worth it.)
-Add one pound if you allow yourself a treat now and then.

Total everything and this is your happy weight!